Image Source: Getty / Luis Alvarez
Quiet quitting is the new, better-paid alternative to the Great Resignation. The phrase, which has garnered over 4.8 million views on TikTok, is more of a philosophy than a trend: perform your work duties, carefully coast through your projects, and don't ask for more responsibility or work. Quiet quitting isn't about turning in your two weeks — it's a mindset based on work-life balance, avoiding burnout, and staying loyal to yourself, rather than your employer.
Zaid Khan, who popularized the term on TikTok, said quiet quitting is about "quitting the idea of going above and beyond." In the TikTok, Khan advocated for separating work from your identity and productivity from your worth as a person.
Quiet quitting is particularly popular among Gen Z and younger millennial professionals, and it's not surprising that younger generations of workers are skeptical about the costs and benefits of their jobs, given the COVID pandemic, inflation, and increasing demands on productivity. The Great Resignation saw millions of Americans voluntarily quit their jobs, and worker dissatisfaction seems to be at an all-time high — one recent report said 55 percent of Americans claim work exhaustion. With waves of resignations and layoffs sweeping the country in the last few years, the remaining workers find themselves tasked with not only their regular responsibilities but also covering for understaffed teams with no guarantee the company will rehire workers. Quiet quitting positions itself as a passive solution for the unfortunate reality that the only reward for hard work seems to be more work.
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Burnout-inducing work environments are only made worse by the fact that employees aren't being properly compensated. A May 2022 report found that 64 percent of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. The federal minimum wage hasn't budged for 13 years, standing still at $7.25, despite labor organizing efforts for $15 an hour. To put those numbers in perspective, a dollar in 2022 only buys 72 percent of what a dollar bought in 2009 — meaning the buying power of a dollar has been on a steady decline and wages have not kept pace. Meanwhile, rent prices in 2021 soared, and for the first time ever, median rent prices rose to $2,000 in 2022.
Given this dire situation, people are asking why they should bother to answer emails during off hours, take on extra assignments, and attend office socials and volunteer events when doing so rarely seems to result in recognition, promotion, or financial security. Quiet quitting is tapping into the culture's deeper economic and existential crisis of melding work with identity and pushing back on the idea that it's worth ruining your mental health and sacrificing your personal life for a job that doesn't necessarily reward you in return.
Career coach Alex Peck explained on TikTok that quiet quitting means "[workers are] not chasing hustle culture at work. They're just doing the required minimum — essentially what they're getting paid to do."
This mentality can be an excellent way to avoid burnout and rewire your work-life boundaries — but some say the philosophy doesn't work for all workers. TikTok creator Stephanie Perry criticized the trend because it's not realistic for Black women in the workplace. "In the United States, people are trained and taught from a very early age to heavily lean on Black women for labor, for support," she said. The more important question, Perry said, is "Do you need your job? . . . Don't quiet quit, just quit."
The term can be sticky — and what you're comfortable coasting on is a personal, strategic decision — but really, what quiet quitting is advocating for is redefining your relationship with your job. As Khan put it simply in a TikTok: "Work is not your life."